Sunday, May 20, 2012


There are times when I hear the comment “Herbs are ugly.”  Is a rose Rosa spp. ugly?  Is lavender Lavandula ugly?  I certainly don’t think so with both of them not only looking good but smelling good too!  What about dianthus Dianthus chinensis and nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus?  I love these herbs because they are both beautiful and quite tasty, whether they are in the ground, a pot or a salad!  

Climbing Pinkie Rose
Do you know that there are over 2,000 herbs which include roses? And do you know that many of our Texas Native Plants are also herbs?  Herbs have been used for thousands of years by many people from all around the globe.  Native Americans relied heavily on herbs (many of which are also considered Native Plants) for many purposes, especially for medicinal reasons.   Herbs are not only used for culinary purposes, as most people think, but they are also used for medicinal, cosmetic, household cleaning solutions, dyes, and art and craft purposes as well.  Some herbs have multiple uses that carry over into all of these categories. 

Furthermore, some other plants that are also herbs include purple coneflower Echinacea, sunflower Helianthus annuus, begonia Begonia semperflorens, pot marigold Calendula officinalis, and ginger Zingiber officinale. 

Some of my orchids that I grow in my greenhouse.
What can be said about the orchids Noble Dendrobiums Dendrobium nobile with over 1,000 species, other than how beautiful they are?  Dendrobium is a diverse genus of orchids with different cultural needs. Yes, they too are herbs with evidence that they were used as herbals in China and India about 7,000 years ago. 

You might be surprised to realize that some of the plants that you think of as “landscaping trees and plants” are also herbs.  The Vitex Agnus-castus, also known as a chaste tree, is an herb, along with citrus trees citrus, bay trees laurus nobilis, cedar trees cedrus, pine trees pinus, beech trees fagus, birch trees betula, and willow trees salix to name just a few trees which are herbs. 

Trifolia 'Variegata' Vitex in the foreground and Variegated Vitex behind it.
I really don’t understand such blanket statements about herbs being ugly, and I have to attribute the comment to the fact that many people don’t know what herbs, sometimes referred to as “the useful plants”, are, so the following is the definition of an herb:

According to The Herb Society of America's New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses by Deni Bown:

"The term "herb" also has more than one definition. Botanists describe an herb as a small, seed bearing plant with fleshy, rather than woody, parts (from which we get the term "herbaceous"). In this book, the term refers to a far wider range of plants. In addition to herbaceous perennials, herbs include trees, shrubs, annuals, vines, and more primitive plants, such as ferns, mosses, algae, lichens, and fungi. They [herbs] are valued for their flavor, fragrance, medicinal and healthful qualities, economic and industrial uses, pesticidal properties, and coloring materials (dyes)."

© Deni Bown, 2001.
Citation: Bown, Deni. The Herb Society of America New Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2001. p. 18

Many herbs, especially the salvias, a genus of some 900 species, are herb favorites of hummingbirds, including the same garden sage Salvia officinalis you grow for cooking.  Also some more are pineapple sage S. elegans, hummingbird sage S. guaranitica, autumn sage S. greggii, scarlet sage, a/k/a Texas sage S. coccinea, black and blue salvia, S.  guaranitica to name just a few of the salvias.  Many other herbs are hummer favorites including Turk’s cap Malvaviscus arboretum, foxgloves Digitalis, and anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum. 

Finally, I do think that culinary herbs are also beautiful with their wide range of scents, textures, colors and sizes, and they add greatly to gardens for both beauty as well as being companion plants.  And the best thing about them is that they taste good, and they can make a “just plain old meal” into a really “great meal”. 

Culinary Herbs

  • Herb vs. spice or soft tissue vs. woody tissue;
  • Herbs: Plants that do not develop persistent woody tissue;
  • Spices: derive from the roots, barks, unopened flowers and seedpods of woody shrubs and trees; various aromatic vegetable products.
  • Culinary herbs are herbaceous plants that add flavor and color to all types of meals.
  • If you find that low fat or low salt foods taste bland, use herbs to enhance the flavor of virtually any dish, including desserts.
  • Generally, herbs are delicately flavored, so add them to your cooking in the last few minutes, or you can do like I do and add them at the beginning of cooking and then throw some more herbs in at the last minute, right before serving. 
The following herbs are some of the favorite culinary herbs:

BASIL Ocimum basilicum Lamiaceae Annual
BAY Laurus nobilis Lauraceae Tree
CHERVIL Anthriscus cerefolium Apiaceae Annual
CHIVES, ONION Allium schoenoprasum Amaryllidaceae Perennial
CHIVES, GARLIC Allium tuberosum Perennial
CORIANDER (English) a/k/a CILANTRO (Spanish) Coriandrum sativum Apiaceae Annual
DILL Anethum graveolens Apiaceae Annual
FENNEL Foeniculum vulgare Apiaceae Perennial
GINGER Zingiber officinalis Zingiberaceae Perennial
LEMON BALM Melissa officinalis Lamiaceae Perennial
LEMON VERBENA Aloysia triphylla Verbenaceae Tender Perennial
LEMONGRASS Cymbopogon citratus Gramineae Tender Perennial
MEXICAN MINT MARIGOLD Tagetes lucida Asteraceae Perennial
MEXICAN OREGANO Poliomintha longiflora Lamiaceae Perennial
MINTS  Mentha species Lamiaceae Perennial
OREGANO Origanum vulgare Lamiaceae Perennial
PARSLEY Petroselinium crispum Apiaceae Biennial
ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis Lamiaceae Perennial
SAGE Salvia officinalis Lamiaceae Perennial
SALAD BURNET Poterium sanguisorba Rosaceae Perennial
SCENTED GERANIUMS Pelargonium species Geraniaceae Perennial
SORREL Rumex acetosa Polygonaceae Perennial
SWEET MARJORAM Origanum majorana Lamiaceae Tender Perennial
THYME Thymus vulgaris Lamiaceae Perennial


4 slices French bread, sliced ½ inch thick
2 tomatoes, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, either finely chopped or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, first pressed virgin
2 tablespoons fresh basil, can be either finely chopped or chiffonade
1 tablespoon fresh chives, either onion or garlic, finely chopped 
1 teaspoon fresh oregano finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper and kosher salt to taste
Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients except bread in a small bowl and chill.  Brush bread with olive oil on one side; grill oiled side down until golden brown; then turn and continue to grill oiled side of bread.  Place oiled side of bread down on a serving plate and top with the remaining ingredients.  Top with Parmesan cheese.  Can garnish with whole fresh basil leaves.

*Bruschetta[broo-SKEH-tah, broo-SHEH-tah]

From the Italian bruscare meaning "to roast over coals," this traditional garlic bread is made by rubbing slices of toasted bread with garlic cloves, then drizzling the bread with extra-virgin olive oil. The bread is salted and peppered, then heated and served warm.


Whole heads of garlic
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Fresh herbs of your choice (can use oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, chives)  

Preheat over to 250°.  Cut just the very top part of the garlic off.  Place into a piece of foil and drizzle the olive oil over it, add some salt and pepper and herbs and seal tightly.  Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes.  Remove and serve on crusty bread as a spread.  Very good with Italian dishes.

Using roasted garlic rather than butter on bread is a great way to reduce your cholesterol intake, and it tastes wonderful! 

Medicinal Herbs

Before pharmaceutical companies, man relied on herbs for medical purposes.   It is known that willow bark has been used for pain relief since the first century A.D.  The willow produces salicylic acid which was first synthesized in 1838 and provides the basis of our modern-day aspirin. 
Myrrh Commiphora myrrha
Myrrh Commiphora myrrha

Frankincense Boswellia sacra    
Also frankincense Boswellia sacra and Myrrh Commiphora myrrha are herbs which are scented plant resins from shrubs.  And yarrow Achillea, a plant that butterflies love, is an herb.  All three of these herbs have been used as medicinal herbs for centuries. 

Some more of the medicinal herbs are as follows:

AMERICAN GINSENG Panax quinquefolius
HOLY BASIL LEAF Ocimum sanctum
CHASTE TREE Vitex Agnus-castus; female hormonal balancer
FENUGREEK Trigonella foenum-graecum
BITTER MELON Momordica charantia
PURPLE CONEFLOWER Echinacea purpurea; native Texas wildflower, immune system booster herb
GURMAR LEAF Gymnema sylvestre
NETTLES, Stinging Nettles, Common Nettles or Small Nettle Urtica dioica; Like spinach, or any other green, it can be steamed or stir-fried with garlic and eaten and also makes a good tea. Good for anemia, asthma, diuretic, used as a green dye
PASSIONFLOWER Passiflora incarnata
ST. JOHN'S WORT Hypericum perforatum
GARLIC AND ONIONS Allium sativum and A. cepa
GOLDENROD Solidago; diuretic, respiratory herb

Evidence suggests valuable compounds found in onions and garlic actually lower glucose levels by competing with insulin in the liver.

Cosmetics Herbs including perfumes

ALOE VERA aloe vera
POT MARIGOLD calendula officinalis; also used as culinary and medicinal herb; Calendula salve will effectively treat burns, stop bleeding, soothe the pain of injuries and irritation, and promote the healing of wounds, insect bites and bruises; nourishing, soothing, and anti-bacterial; has anti-depressant properties
CUCUMBER cucumis sativus
ROSE rosa; also culinary and medicinal herb
LAVENDER lavandula
WITCH HAZEL hamamelis virginiana

Different types of herb gardens

An herb garden can be any size and any shape from the formal herb garden to an informal quaint kitchen garden with contrasting colors, textures, shapes, and sizes.  Some herb theme gardens include hummingbird, bee, culinary, potpourri, tea, dye, medicinal, color, Shakespeare, Bible, topiaries and astrological gardens.   

So before you make the comment “Herbs are ugly!” think about all of the beautiful plants that are herbs! 

Compiled and submitted by:

Herbie a/k/a Linda Turner Collins
Rockport, Texas
January 21, 2007


Herbal Rose said...

Very nice post Linda. We needed an update on this. Your plants are beautiful, wish I could grow them as well as you do.

Herbie said...

Thank you! I've been working on this for two days now!

Herbiecott said...

Great post, Linda! So much good info, and the pics add so much, too. Kudos to you!!

hanna said...

I've been think what if you will include a tulsi herb on that one? I think it is worthy bacause in the past, Tulsi is known to be the "King of Herbs". Or do you have another recipe that it might be included?

Herbiecott said...

Absolutely we would include Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum, or as it's also known in the U.S., Holy Basil. It's a very useful herb, known for it's medicinal properties:

Tulsi is rich in antioxidant and renowned for its restorative powers, Tulsi has several benefits:

Relieves stress / adaptogen
Bolsters immunity
Enhances stamina
Provides support during cold season
Promotes healthy metabolism
A natural immuno-modulator

I use it in a tea blend with Roselle, Hibiscus sabdariffa, and mint. It's very refreshing cooled and poured over ice.

Here's a link to Organic India with lots more info on Tulsi:

Herbie said...

Sorry to whomever complained about the bruschetta photo. I don't know where I found it, and I didn't realize there was a copyright issue. I have removed it and totally deleted the photo from my computer. Sorry!

Herbie said...

Did a little more research and found that the website that is doing the complaining is a German website. No wonder I didn't find anything about a copyright! DUH!